- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Co; 1 edition (24 July 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1603585788
- ISBN-13: 978-1603585781
- Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 1.3 x 25.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 898 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional Methods and Natural Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses Paperback – 8 Jul 2015
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'The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is a breakthrough book. The interest among eaters to explore this next stage in do-it-yourself living in the 21st century has finally reached dairy. What's great about Asher's book is that it is practical and zeroes in on cheese products one may actually make successfully at home. It is unlikely that DIY cheesemaking will put any cheesemonger or cheese producer out of business. Quite the opposite, in fact: The more we remove the mystery to manufacturing even the simplest of cheeses at home, the more we will come to admire the craftsmanship that dairy farmers and artisanal cheesemakers bring to their work, to make life better and tastier for the rest of us.ï¿½?-- Richard McCarthy, executive director, Slow Food USA
About the Author
David Asher is an organic farmer, goatherd, and farmstead cheesemaker, who lives on the gulf islands of British Columbia. A guerrilla cheesemaker, Asher explores traditionally cultured, noncorporate methods of cheesemaking. Though mostly self-taught, he picked up his cheese skills from various teachers, including a Brown Swiss cow, named Sundae, on Cortes Island.
Asher's Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking offers cheesemaking workshops in partnership with food-sovereignty-minded organizations and communities. His workshops teach a cheesemaking method that is natural, DIY, and well suited to any home kitchen. He has been teaching cheesemaking for over seven years.
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I have many cheesemaking books. I've had successes making various cheeses, but I've never gotten serious about the craft. I just may after reading this. The reason? Everything is so APPROACHABLE. David Asher is to cheesemaking as Sandor Katz is to fermentation (a point further made since Mr. Katz wrote the foreword.) He takes something that's been done for ages that's been so sterilized to be unrecognizable, and takes it back to how it's been done for ages. I'm sure many of you who are interested in cheesemaking have looked at recipes for a cheese and thought "how did they get a thermophilic culture, keep it at exactly 82 degrees for 80 minutes over a wooden fire, and keep it in a sterile cheese cave?"
Of course they didn't, they had tradition. What we have now is meticulous and repeatable, but I'd argue is a bit soulless. What Mr. Asher is bringing back is the soul. He steps you logically through every step. He even shows you how to HARVEST YOUR OWN RENNET. Think about that for a second. When was the last time you saw a cheesemaking book go into more than a page of info about rennet?
I actually happened upon David's (very infrequently updated) blog by happenstance, looking for a recipe for homemade blue cheese. I loved the way he wrote, and the passion he clearly held for cheesemaking. It carried over well in this book. It's an absolute joy, and so approachable. If you're anything like I am, a lot of cheesemaking is a mystery. Why should I get this culture over that one? How did these cultures come about? Why can't I use what's floating around my house? It's all explained here, simple enough for a dummy like me to be excited to try it out. Blue cheese culture? He shows you how to cultivate it on your own. It's amazing. Who'd have thought a moldy piece of sourdough bread was something you didn't want to throw out?
I've learned more in this book in one day of owning it than I have reading my (I think 8 now) other cheesemaking books over years. Perhaps they primed me to know what Mr. Asher is talking about a bit better. I've had several "aha" moments though, things I didn't even know I didn't know suddenly making a whole lot of sense. I know I've said it before, but again, the word of the day here is "approachable". It takes away the mystery and puts the power of cheesemaking in your hands. I haven't been so excited about a cookbook in a long time.
He discusses and shows how to make pretty much any cheese I can think of. From fresh cheeses such as paneer and mozz, to goat cheeses (chevre) to blue cheeses, to swiss cheeses. Common standbys like cheddar are obviously included as well. He takes you through all the important parts of cheesemaking, from his chapter on why he wrote this book and why natural cheesemaking is something worth pursuing, to milk and how to source it (raw, please!). He talks about all the different cultures and how to...culture them (a real eye opener for me. Honestly, this is worth buying the book for alone, knowing how all this stuff comes about). Tools you need, making a cheese cave, even goes over salt and it's importance over a whole chapter.
Guys, if you skipped down to the bottom of this review, I don't blame you. I'm rarely long winded or as verbose as I have been here. I only get that way when I'm excited about something, and I rarely get excited. Get this book. Get it if you love cheese. Get it if you hate factory cheese and want to shove some artisinal gouda up their factory's tailpipe. Get it if you're curious about how cheese USED to be made before you could buy a packet of "thermophilic A". Get it if you want to support a passionate author seemingly reviving the craft singlehandedly. The point is:
I really can't understand the reviewers which criticized this book for assuming the use of RAW MILK, because the title of the book is: "The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses."
It does include a few very worthwhile cheeses that can be made using pasteurized homogenized store bought milk, and for these alone I think this book is worthwhile, but it really shines for anyone who keeps dairy animals and therefore has a source of clean, fresh raw milk (and often more than they know what to do with). Our raw milk tastes good for weeks, and sometimes we start making cheese within 15 minutes of it leaving the cow. So our milk is impeccably clean and fresh.
The first problem with this book began when we tried to locate Kefir. Cultures For Health's dried kefir never really came alive, and cost over $20. When we used to it culture anything, it ended up tasting rank and nasty. We tried live liquid culture Kefir from "the Kefir Lady." This too never really had any vigor, and resulted in everything tasting rank and chalky. Finally, we located a local source of fresh raw kefir, and boy this stuff was strong. Works very well, and cultures up whatever nicely. The problem is that it still tastes rank. I think Kefir doesn't taste very good because many of the organisms in it impart bad flavors. There is a reason, I think, why yogurt and cultured buttermilk and most cheeses use just one or two different cultures that are PURE and produce a good tasting product. With Kefir, you don't know what you are getting, and that is a problem of Asher's methods.
Basically Asher's method is to use Kefir for everything and applied different manipulations to the cheese (more or less rennet, different shapes and sizes, different washes and salt and exterior treatments, etc.) in order to alter its flavor. Besides his recipes for paneer, mozzarella (both slow and fast), and yougurt cheese, all of his other cheeses taste to me basically the same, and every one of them after a few weeks develops weird molds that we have no idea if they are safe to eat. This includes his St. Marcellin, Camambert, Tomme, and Gouda, all of which we followed his recipe and methods painstakingly (even using Walco-ren rennet), bought a refrigerator and hacked it to make a cheese cave, and made clean wooden boards and bamboo mats to age with. Every one of these cheeses once aged about 3 weeks started to grow something weird. As the man of the house (and not being pregnant), I tasted every one of them, and didn't get sick, but the cheese tastes inferior to anything I've ever bought in a store. We have some in that cave aging, but we are not very hopeful. A whole rainbow of weird molds is growing, and we wash them off with whey or brine or whatever is prescribed. Things like this absolutely kill enthusiasm for such endeavors, and I think do more harm to at-home-cheesmaking than any "industrial cheesemaking book" every has.
There is basically no troubleshooting section in the book to speak of. No guidance on how to get good kefir (or milk). No instruction hardly on how to treat aging cheese...he sort of assumes evetything is going to work.
I am beginning to think that the people that gave this book props did so because IT IS compellingly written and seems to makes sense. The problem is that it just doesn't seem to work with enough reliability that a normal person is willing to INVEST the considerable amount of time it takes to make a hard cheese for it not to turn out well consistently and predictably.
We have turned to using prepared cultures and a more sterile (laboratory-like technique) because it is not worth the time investment and the amount of dishwashing to make a cheese that may turn out poorly. It's worth it, in our mind, to use prepared cultures that will produce a pleasing and predicable tasting cheese!
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